Take your burgers, salads, and favorite Mexican dishes up a notch by adding some pickled red onions. They’re sweet, tangy, beautiful, and only take minutes to make!
If you’ve never made pickled red onions before, stop what you’re doing and get after it. They’re so easy and super delicious! You’ll love having a jar of these in your fridge to grab at anytime for tacos, burgers, salads, and more. They add a sweet, tangy flavor and pop of color to so many dishes. Bonus, red onions are always available at your local market, so this Pickled Red Onions Recipe can be enjoyed all year round.
Pickling raw red onions transforms them from sharp and bitter to something zesty and sweet. Their slightly crisp texture and vibrant jewel-toned appearance makes them a simply irresistible condiment!
Quick Pickled Red Onions Recipe Ingredients
To make this pickled onions recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- Red Onion: Look for a firm red onion, without blemishes or soft spots. This recipe can also be made with white or yellow onions, but you won’t get that beautiful bright-pink color.
- Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is my preference for pickled onions, but rice vinegar or white wine vinegar can also be used. Avoid distilled white vinegar and balsamic vinegar for this recipe.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar provides a necessary balance to the acidity of vinegar. Without it, the brine will be way too harsh. Natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, or agave might work, but this recipe has not been tested with any of those.
- Salt: A little bit of salt elevates the other flavors.
- Seasonings: This recipe also includes garlic, peppercorns, and a bay leaf, which adds extra flavor.
- Change the seasonings: On a basic level, pickled onions are sliced onions that marinate in a simple brine made up of vinegar, sugar, and salt, but you can customize the mixture in so many ways. We added garlic, peppercorns, and a bay leaf, but you could put an Italian spin on it by using herbs like oregano and rosemary. Fresh ginger and star anise would accompany Asian dishes well. A slice of jalapeño or a pinch of red pepper flakes would be great additions if you wanted something spicier. Play with it!
- Try a different vegetable: Onions not your thing? Try this recipe with cucumbers, green beans, carrots, and so on.
- Make a bigger batch: The recipe written below makes about 2 cups. If you need a larger quantity for a party or potluck, simply double (or triple) the ingredients and store in a bigger jar.
How to Pickle Red Onions
Quick-pickled deliciousness is only a few minutes and a short list of ingredients away!
(*Scroll down for the complete printable recipe card and video tutorial.)
- Slice your onion: Peel and then slice the onion very thin (about 1/8-inch.) This allows them to soften and absorb the brine quickly. I prefer my onions sliced in rings, which makes those loops easier to dig out from the jar. Alternatively, you can slice them thicker from 1/4 to 1/2-inch, but the vinegar will just take longer to permeate through the onion and the overall results will be crunchier. You can also choose to slice the onion into half moons. Totally up to you! Either way, I highly recommend using a mandolin for ease and uniformity, but a sharp Chef’s knife will totally get the job done.
- Make the brine: In a small saucepan, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 30-60 seconds.
- Combine: Stuff the sliced onions and seasonings into a 16 ounce mason jar. Pour hot brine mixture over the onions, making sure they’re submerged in the liquid. Fasten jar with the lid.
- Pickle: Cool to room temperature and then transfer to the refrigerator. (Don’t forget about them on the countertop! They need to be stored in the fridge.)
- Serve or store for later: The pickled onions are ready to eat once they’re bright pink and tender – about 1 hour for very thinly sliced onions, or overnight for thicker sliced onions.
What to Do with Pickled Red Onions
Oh gosh, so many delicious ways to use pickled onions. They’re such a great condiment to liven up just about any dish. Here are some ideas:
- Pile them on top of a burger: We love them on these burgers.
- Add them to a salad: They pair so well with this orange beet salad.
- Tuck them into a sandwich: These pizza supreme sliders are just begging for some!
- Most Mexican dishes love them: So delicious with these beef tacos, pork taquitos, cilantro lime rice, pico de gallo, and guacamole.
- Great on a buffet table: Put some out on a sandwich or salad buffet at parties and watch them disappear!
Store these pickled onions in a sealed glass or ceramic container, not metal or plastic, in the refrigerator. They will keep up to 2 weeks. The longer they’re stored, the onions will eventually lose the two-tone look and be all pink.
Pickled Red Onions Video
Next time your food seems to be missing something and needs an oomph of flavor and color, grab some pickled red onions. Your dish will perk right up!
More Recipes for the Onion Lover!
Pickled Red Onions
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 clove garlic , peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon whole mixed peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Slice the onions to 1/8-inch thickness (ideally with a mandolin for uniformity), and stuff in a 16 ounce mason jar (that has a lid.) Place the garlic clove and peppercorns in the jar and slide the bay leaf in between the onions.
- In a small saucepan, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 30-60 seconds.
- Pour hot mixture over the onions, making sure they're submerged in the liquid. Fasten with the lid.
- Set aside to cool to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator.
- The pickled onions are ready to eat once they're bright pink and tender – about 1 hour for very thinly sliced onions, or overnight for thicker sliced onions.